May 1, 2014 10:22PM
By Sean Krofssik
SOUTHINGTON — The Platt High School Hall of Fame added a strong 2014 class on Thursday night at the Aqua Turf Club.
Four of the greatest athletes that ever donned the blue and gold were honored, as well as a standout coach and one of the best teams the school has produced. Michelle Cooley, Kyle Cooney, Luis Murillo Jr., Kelly Roman, longtime Panther swim coach Daniel Barillaro and the 1989 state championship girls basketball team were inducted to eternal Platt glory.
Cooley was a 1989 grad who excelled as a soccer, basketball and softball player. She got double the honor on Thursday, being enshrined as an individual and as a member of the ‘89 title team.
On the soccer pitch, Cooley set goaltending records that have stood the test of time. She holds the school record for shutouts in a season (7) and career (11) and shutouts in a row (3).
Her best sport was softball. She was the starting backstop on Platt’s 1987 state championship squad. The lefty was three times All-CCC and a two-time All-Stater.
“I didn’t see this coming,” Cooley said. “It’s been 25 years since I left Platt and, when you go on with life, you don’t think about these things. Then [Platt AD] Rich Katz called me and asked if I would accept this award. I’m grateful, but I think it’s well-deserved.”
After Platt, Cooley moved on to Princeton, where she suited up for the school’s softball team for one season and then switched to rugby. By her senior year, she was an All-American.
Cooney was one of the best to ever suit up for the Panthers baseball team. The catcher was All-CCC and All-State in his junior and senior years. The slugger led the Platt to a 17-5 record in his senior season with four homers and 26 RBIs.
“At the time I didn’t think I wasn’t one of the best,” Cooney said. “But since the time that I’ve been gone I realized how special those years were. I was driven and motivated to do the best for the team and let everything else fall into place.”
Cooney moved on to UConn and helped guide the Huskies to the 1994 Big East crown. He was later drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and played in the organization from 1994 to 1999. After he was released, Cooney played independent ball for the now-defunct Waterbury Spirit.
“I was always a good hitter and I was told that I have a pretty good arm,” Cooney said. “I must have done something right during my career.”
Murillo Jr. is the youngest inductee this year. The 2002 grad won Class M state wrestling title three times. As a senior, he won the State Open crown. He went on to finish third in New England and 5-2 in a national tournament that year.
Murillo Jr. finished his career with a 153-18 mark and went to college at Trinity and, after that, the military. He is now a Captain, Infantry Officer in the United States Marine Corps.
The grappler said he, too, was surprised to be selected.
“This was very soon,” Murillo Jr. said. “I feel great. My dad was inducted and to be in that line of athletes at Platt is pretty amazing. I hope that I made an impact and set an example for the kids that are there now.”
Murillo added that Platt wrestling coach Bryan McCarty, who was the emcee of Thursday’s induction ceremony, changed his life and still has an impact on him to this day.
Roman earned 12 varsity letters and 12 All-CCC awards in her illustrious career at Platt. Roman starred on the track and on the soccer field.
In track, she set a school record in the 400 that still stands. She was also part of a relay team that still holds Platt records in the 4x100 and the 4x400.
“Sports were such a big part of my life,” Roman said. “It’s special to have this moment and see some of my old teammates and classmates again is just great.”
On the pitch, Roman scored 20 goals in her All-State senior campaign in 2000. She moved on to play at Connecticut College, where she was named Rookie of the Year as a freshman and captain and the team co-MVP as a senior.
Roman was given the news of her selection to the Hall by her soccer coach at Platt, Rob Beale.
“It’s just surreal to be associated with such a high caliber of athletes as this class,” Roman said.
Barillaro was a stalwart on the Panther pool deck for decades. He coached the Platt boys from 1988 to 2005 and the girls from 1986 to 1996.
“I coached by making kids miserable,” Barillaro said with a grin. “I wanted to make kids fail at their highest level. They wouldn’t let me be the basketball coach, so I went swimming.”
The coach said he didn’t care about wins and losses, only about his athletes improving every time they jumped into the pool.
“You can ask me my record, but I won’t know it,” Barillaro said. “That never was important to me. I’ve had thousands of great memories and I couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to work.”
Barillaro was a four-year swimmer at St. Paul (Bristol) and went on the swim on the Fairfield University club team. He oversaw several CCC girls titles at Platt and one division crown in 1995 with the Panther boys.
The 1989 basketball team won the Class L state crown with a 23-2 record and won the state title game in overtime against Notre Dame. The final score was 61-53, the end of an unforgettable season.
“That was a very smart and very talented team,” said Tom Johnson, who coached that championship squad. “They played together for three years. By the time they got to their senior year, they knew what they were doing. They were really good on defense. They only gave up 38 points per game. It was a pleasure to coach them.”
Members of the team were Kim Penwell, Kelly Penwell, Michelle Demers, Chrissy Danko, Christine Wanat, Michelle Cooley, Latashia Williams, Heidi Schmidt, Kelly Grady and Sarah Lane.